LONDON (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – Hope Solo is one of America’s most decorated soccer players, a record-breaking goalkeeper who has made over 200 appearances for her country. But the 36-year-old — whose contract was terminated by U.S. Soccer in 2016 for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles” — told CNN Sport that she’d prefer the 2026 tournament to be awarded to a “more deserving country” than her homeland, which is jointly bidding with Mexico and Canada.
North America is up against Morocco to earn the right to host soccer’s showpiece event in 2026, with the final decision to be made on June 13 in Moscow — on the eve of the 2018 World Cup in Russia — when up to 207 national associations at a FIFA congress will decide in a public vote who will host the tournament in eight years.
Under the North America proposal, 60 games in 2026 would be held in the United States, including everything from the quarterfinals onwards. Mexico and Canada would host 10 games each. The United States last hosted the World Cup in 1994 and Dallas was among the cities which held matches, at the Cotton Bowl.
Admitting that her feelings on the matter were mixed, Solo told CNN Sport in an exclusive interview, “I think, any time you host a World Cup, you’re going to have new generations of soccer fans, and that’s important. It’s important especially in a younger country like America.”
“I want to go myself to the World Cup in America,” Solo added.
“But, at the same time, I think it should be awarded to a country which abides by federal law, who is transparent, who runs their nonprofit organizations in the way it should be run, who aren’t hiding millions of dollars, and a company who actually answers these questions that want to be answered. They just ignore everybody,” Solo said.
The “they” that Solo is referring to are the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), the body that runs soccer in the United States, and is one of the driving forces behind the North American bid.
“I do have a problem with an organization like that being awarded something so big, and I would like to think there’s another country out there who is more deserving than the United States,” continued Solo, who was voted the outstanding goalkeeper of the past two women’s World Cup tournaments and is only the third female goalkeeper in history to win both a World Cup and Olympic gold.
“Of course, I want to see the World Cup in America. But I also want to see an organization that stands true to the promises that they made to all of the delegates, to all of the members,” Solo said. “Right now, they’ve neglected so many people of the membership. If they get the bid, they make more money, and they don’t answer to anybody, so it goes back to the power structure.”
The “hidden millions” that Solo refers to is the $150 million surplus in U.S. Soccer’s coffers.
The goalkeeper has not played for the U.S. since she was suspended for six months and had her contract terminated after calling Sweden’s team a “bunch of cowards” following their defeat of the U.S. at Rio 2016. She also ran, unsuccessfully, for the presidency of U.S. Soccer in February.
The Washington native thinks that the sport’s governing body in the United States should spend the money helping young players from poorer backgrounds by ending “pay-to-play,” a widespread practice of elite clubs charging parents to coach young players.
Solo, who spoke to CNN Sport in London at the Foundation for Sports Integrity’s inaugural conference, described the men’s inability to qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia as “unacceptable, but not surprising” and argued that the federation’s failure to nurture young talent from all backgrounds has made the sport in her country a reserve of “rich white kids.”
U.S. Soccer is a nonprofit organization which is required by U.S. law, it says, to use its money to help grassroots soccer.
Pointing out that U.S. Soccer’s financial statements were available online, the federation told CNN Sport that the “vast majority of revenue that U.S. Soccer generates is invested back into player, coach and referee development.”
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